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Courses vs. Grades

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Natalie03, Jul 19, 2002.

  1. Natalie03

    Natalie03 Member 7+ Year Member

    Jun 1, 2002
    For anyone in the MD/PhD program right now or understands the admissions process really well... Will the rigor and depth of the courses an applicant takes be considered? Or are top grades more important? I can see how an admissions committee would want to see an applicant who knows her limits and has the ability to do well in all of her classes, but what about the applicant who is driven to challenge herself with the toughest classes even if it risks (and results in) lower grades? I chose to take a really intense schedule of multiple upper-level science courses consistently, but my grades have suffered as a result (to lower than 3.4 but higher than 3.2). Are there so many applicants with perfect grades in hard classes that my chances are nil?

    Also, what is the recommended number of letters of recommendation? I've gotten 3 letters from science professors from my classes, 1 from my research mentor, and 1 from a previous boss in a non-science summer internship. I know that at least 1 from the science profs and the 1 from my mentor and boss will be very strong. I'm wondering whether I should obtain another one from a humanities professor and whether having more "just good but not absolutely amazing" letters is worse than having a few "absolutely amazing" letters. Also is it a general rule to obtain letters only from those familiar with your post-secondary school work? I was almost considering also getting a letter from a high school teacher who knew me very well.

    Last question... while my gpa is below avg, my mcat score is right at avg (for md schools). I am planning to take the mcat's again this aug, so that I can submit much better scores to those schools that offer me an interview. I'm pretty sure that the reason I got a lower score last time was because I took it early (summer after 2nd year) while holding down a job with extra long hours. Does this seem viable? Would it be better to get a rec letter from my boss at that job who can attest to all my hardwork that summer? I know it looks bad that it seems I abandoned the mcats just for some summer job.

    Thanks so much in advance for any advice!
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  3. atsai3

    atsai3 10+ Year Member

    May 15, 2002
    Grades and letters from research supervisors. Admissions committee staff are really not sophisticated enough to be able to tell the finer differences between courseloads between schools between years.

    High school teacher rec won't help you much.

    Retaking the MCAT is a very iffy undertaking. (I know that many on SDN have retaken and done well.) One expects at least a 1-2 gain after each retake, just on a familiarity and probability basis -- so you've got to know that you can score 3-4 points higher this time around. Otherwise, it's not going to be worth your time. Getting a score only 1-2 points higher will only confirm your score.

  4. wgu

    wgu Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Apr 29, 2002
    In relation to the first wave of questions, I was considering taking a grad-level fluid mechanics class... what does everyone think about that? Good idea bin or bad idea bin?
  5. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Actually, rigor and depth of coursework is looked at. Admissions people are smarter than you think. Unfortunately, your grades suffering for it may not help you very much. I would recommend at least one letter from a non-science professor. Forget the high school letter. As for MCATs, taking it again is risky in that you are statistically as likely to drop 1-2 points as you are to gain 1-2 points. The vast majority of test retakers cluster around their old score. So retake only if you think you can do significantly better.

    Hope this helps. :D
  6. Bikini Princess

    Bikini Princess 7+ Year Member

    May 26, 2002
    Your grades are what is looked at first, not the classes themselves.

    I understand it's almost impossible to compare the difficulty of courses between applicants. Committees may prefer an A in bio 101 than a C+ in chem 426. Committees are pleased by A's. These A's need not necessarily be earned in grad-level fluid mechanics.

    In light of this, I certainly wouldn't take a class simply because it would "look good for medical school". :) Take classes you enjoy, and be sensitive to the time requirements of your course load.
  7. exigente chica

    exigente chica 7+ Year Member

    May 28, 2002
    When are you applying? Never think that your chances are nill. If you take a class that interest you you are more likely to get a better grade, than takin one just for the sake of it looking good.
    You have to fill in like a miliion classes for AMCAS so obiously the A's are going to stand out, not so much the classes. In a more in depth study this can been seen though.
    I think the high school letter is too outdated.
    Good luck:D
  8. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Several of you have made the valid point that grades are probably more important overall than the actual courses.

    Unfortunately, some of you are underestimating the ability of admissions committee members to discern the rigor of an academic courseload. It is not that difficult to get a sense of what types of courses an applicant has taken. Remember, applications are received each year from applicants who attend the same schools. While you go through the process just once (ideally), admissions committees are made up of members who serve for years. They have the advantage of being able to compare applicants over time, not just among the current batch. They are not generally looking to compare one specific course title versus another, but are instead trying to get an overall sense of what types of courses you took.

    It would be wise to try and look at the admissions game from the committee's point of view. :D

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